So there it was – a nice, new, shiny, silvery monstrosity on my desk, ready to be activated. I prefetched the Firewire cable I knew I would need to move the contents over from my elderly iMac and groped behind the left bottom corner for the power button. The familiar startup sound greeted me and away it went into the overly self-indulgent introductory animation.

It inquired whether I wanted to move the contents of the previous Mac over and I said yes. Then I waited for it to calculate the amount of storage required. And waited. And waited. Nothing. I started over and tried again. Still nothing. Oddly, I remembered having this same problem on my previous iMac. So I ignored the file transfer and proceeded to the desktop.

For the uninitiated, the transfer of information from one Mac to another is handled by the Migration Assistant found in the /Applications/Utilities folder, and can be used after the setup of a new Mac.

A note for those who choose to use this method: If you think you are smart and setup the new computer with the same user account name, then be prepared, the Migration Assistant won’t allow you to overwrite the same named account if it is the currently active account. You will need to create a second (temporary, if you wish) admin account in order to run the application.

So attach your previous system via Firewire, and start it up holding the “T” key down, which starts the system up in what is called Target Disk Mode. If successful, you’ll see the Firewire symbol on the screen. It should also then appear on the desktop of the new Mac under the icon of the internal drive. Then you can run the Migration Assistant application.

A second note for smarty-pants consultants (like me): Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you are using Time Machine to backup your system and want to continue using the same backup drive for the new Mac, then when the application prompts you to choose what you want to transfer, touch nothing! I thought I didn’t need to copy over the Network settings, so when I did this the first time, the new computer didn’t recognize the external drive as an existing Time Machine backup, it wanted to create a new backup on it. No, no, no. Make sure to not deselect any item unless you are sure you don’t need it, and if you have the space on the new system, go ahead and leave it, you may be able to delete it later.

Ok, now we begin the transfer and go away for an hour or so…

I’m back! See how fast that was? Now my new iMac is like the old iMac except bigger, stronger and faster. Now let’s see what applications I have broken. Inevitably, when transferring files from one Mac to another, applications will stop working. The best thing to do is to make sure that you take some preventive actions in advance to curb their number prior to the data transfer.

Adobe Creative Suite: open one of the applications in this suite and run the Help -> Deactivate command.
QuarkXpress: open the application and run the QuarkXpress or Utilities -> Deactivate command.

Some apps are going to just need the license codes re-entered. You are using a license tracker, aren’t you? If not, this is a good time to start. Try LicenseKeeper or 1Password, both excellent options. If not, you’re going to need to rummage around your shelves or back room to find all those software packages, or your old email messages. With one of these apps, it’s as easy as Copy/Paste.

Other apps I had issues with: Savings Bond Tracker (only allows a certain number of activations), SWF ‘n Slide Pro, SWF Lock ‘n Load, Text-Osterone (who comes up with these names?), Suitcase Fusion (lost track of the Font Vault location), Microsoft AU Daemon (needs Rosetta installed, which you’ll be prompted for).

If all else fails, try to remove the application. This can best be accomplished using the application installer itself (if it’s an option), an app delete program, or by dragging the app and associated files to the Trash. Make sure to remove the app’s preferences in /Library/Preferences and /homeuser/Library/Preferences as well as files in the /Library/Application Support and /homeuser/Library/Application Support folder. There may be stragglers left behind, but they should be fine to leave, since you are re-installing anyway.

Whew! That’s all there is to it. Now I can begin using my new machine. You have no idea how cool it is to play Call of Duty on a 27″ display… or watch a movie. Even working on it is nice… see ya next time!